How to prepare for outdoor art shows, fairs, and farmers markets

If you're trying to sell art, chances are you've considered selling at a local art show or farmers market.  But where to begin?

First, you have to do somewhat of a cost/benefit analysis.  To sell at an art show, you'll typically need at least these things:

  1. A 10x10 pop up tent  ($100-$400)
  2. Portable chair ($10-$30)
  3. Small display table ($10-$40
  4. A method to hold your art upright and display it (price ranges from under $100 budget systems to $300 per unit pro panels)
  5. Small toolkit with basic supplies like zip ties, cords, bungees etc. to keep your display looking good.  ($20-$100, depending on whats necessary)
  6. A credit card reader or other method to accept payment. ($20-$80 plus charge fees per transaction)
  7. Some kind of way to protect and wrap your art when it's purchased (price varies with method)

This is just a barebones setup, and is pretty standard for where I'm at in the San Diego area.  The 'buy in' for all of this equipment could be quite hefty, so you must decide if your art sales will cover those costs.  This brings us to my next point, how best to set up your display.

Heres one of my early setups (Carlsbad Art in the Village)

Brandon Jameson Art Booth

Ive experimented with many different setups, and what has worked for me is a neat, but plentiful spread of art.  In other words, having a lot of organized pieces pulls people into the tent and encourages browsing.  Variety is key.. Especially variety in colors and styles.  This ensures you have something for everybody, and more people will browse your work.  With everything said, a professional appearance is key here.  The overall scheme should have consistency, and be visually appealing.

Pricing your artwork will be an entirely different post, but the quick of it is: don't short yourself.  If you're realistic about what your art is worth, then it's appropriately priced.  That struggle is reality for many artists out there that feel like they have to give their work away to gain exposure.  Like I said, thats another (long) talk.

When engaging with customers, be ready to talk about anything. Be sensitive to they type of person you're talking to and do what you can to keep the conversation easy.  Have a story ready to tell about each piece.  How and why it was made... Tell them about your process... Just talk.  It's not enough to just say hi, and it's certainly not enough to read a book in the corner of your booth hoping that serious buyers will make themselves known to you.  BE SOCIAL!

Lastly, if you decide to do outdoor shows, be willing to try them more than once.  Many of these shows are community based. Especially farmers markets.  Many sales occur as a result of multiple contacts and viewings before people make a buying decision.  

Shows can be a lot of fun, and frustrating at the same time.  There is a steep learning curve for artists who may not have a lot or retail or sales experience that are trying their hand at selling their own artwork.  It's like starting your own little business and it's risky and scary but it's a great experience so if you decide to do it, my last piece of advice is to keep a positive mindset!

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